The name Cola partly stands for “Cost of Living Adjustment”, an ironically dry inspiration for a rock band. But in the context of former Ought frontman Tim Darcy’s latest project, the term economic also evokes an artistic perspective. Joined by former Ought bassist Ben Stidworthy and drummer Evan Cartwright (US Girls, The Weather Station), the trio’s debut album addresses modern anxieties over technology in a world on the brink, bringing their pictorial worldview to the present. Cola’s sleek sound fits into the melodic side of contemporary post-punk, with sharper hooks and more succinct songwriting than the members’ earlier work. What remains is Darcy’s charismatic drawl, picking up where his last band left off.
Before announcing their split in 2021, Ought honed their approach to contemplative, cathartic art-rock through three albums. During the quartet’s emotionally raw debut in 2014, Darcy’s voice strained like a young David Byrne searching for something to believe in. setting sun, their songs became longer and their lyrics more repetitive, with Mark E. Smith’s snappy delivery. Darcy tried out a Roy Orbison quiver on his 2017 solo album, and on Ought’s latest album, he was accompanied by a 70-person choir. No such embellishments appear on In depth viewas the three musicians reduce their songs to the essentials.
In that sense, Cola has some commonalities with Smile, Radiohead’s side project starring Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood. Both bands formed in the shadow of their members’ best-known projects and emerged with a familiar, streamlined sound. “Very exitedwas the first song Darcy, Stidworthy and Cartwright wrote together in late 2019, its choruses resonating with the disaffected catchy The Strokes. After the pandemic, their in-person recordings were replaced by exchange files on Google Drive, although it is impossible to tell the difference. Interspersing the meat of the song between offbeat instrumental passages, “Fulton Parktouches on the feeling of disconnection. As his backing vocals crumble, Darcy sings of being “challenged for imitating landscapes,” a fantasy world he escaped into during his loneliest moments in lockdown.
Darcy’s lyrics have always been concerned with human connection, but these songs were written from a more reclusive perspective than the grand epics of Ought. “Mint” describes his solitary experiences making tea, dusting off her record shelves and pacing the hallways. It sounds like both a cry for help and an admission of self-sabotage when he sings “I’ll call somebody / I’m not calling anybody”. On “Hydrostatic level“Darcy seems just as alone, becoming one with the technology as he stops worrying about disappearing. Cartwright’s caveman drumbeat, without the use of cymbals, leaves plenty of room for lyrics, as do his martial snare rolls on “Gossamer,” propelling one of the most evocative lines ever. from the album: “I feel abrasions like a dike feels rain.”